The police are sworn to protect and serve the communities they serve. Unfortunately, that’s not always what they do. Unlawful car searches in Texas are common, which is why you should know your rights as a citizen. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution grants you the right to not be subjected to unreasonable search and seizure of your property without a warrant.
However, determining what is “unreasonable” is not always clear-cut. Furthermore, because your car is a mobile vehicle and will likely be gone by the time the police obtain a warrant, and because vehicles are usually stopped on public roads and not private property, there are exceptions made for searching automobiles.
How to avoid illegal searches and know your rights
If an officer asks for permission to search your vehicle, you have the right to decline their request. However, it is best to be polite, as angry officers tend to find reasons to arrest people even when they’ve done nothing wrong. It is also common that officers will use mind tricks if you decline to let them search your car. They may respond with something along the lines of, “If you have nothing to hide, then you shouldn’t be worried.” That may be true, but it doesn’t mean officers have the right to search your car without reasonable cause.
It is also a good idea to record the traffic stop. This could irritate officers as well, so do so with caution. A camera mounted in your car that can easily be switched on is likely your best bet. An officer can ask you to turn the camera off, but it is within your rights to record the interaction.
When is it legal to search your car?
Here is a list of situations when it is legal for the police to search your car:
When they have a warrant. This almost goes without saying, but if the police already have a warrant to search your car, then they can legally do so.
When there is evidence left in the open. The police have the right to look through your windows and if they see drugs, weapons or any indication that there might be drugs or weapons in the car, they have reasonable cause to search the vehicle.
If you give your consent. Police will likely ask you if they can search your car. It is your right to decline and ask for a warrant.
Contact an experienced unlawful car search lawyer
If you believe you have been subjected to an unlawful car search in Texas, you should have a reliable Kingwood defense lawyer on your side who can fight for your rights. At the Law Office of Andrew Williams, we will fight aggressively on your behalf. Contact our firm online or call 281-358-9111 to schedule your free initial consultation with an experienced DWI attorney.
About the Author: Andrew Williams I am a criminal defense lawyer with over 20 years experience defending people accused of wrongdoing. I am board certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Only ten percent of attorneys in Texas are board certified in their respective field. I practice criminal law exclusively in both state and federal court including appeals of criminal cases.